By now, you've probably heard that the Buffalo Bills have a new General Manager in long-time scout and front office executive Buddy Nix. The news is still fresh and initial opinions are still rolling in; as such, I'm in need of a mind dump. Here's everything I think about the Nix hiring while it's still hot off the presses.
This was a step in the right direction. I've maintained for quite some time - and most Bills fans thoroughly agreed with the sentiment - that Buffalo needed to get a GM in place. That deed is now done. Buffalo's got a football guy calling the shots, which no matter which way you slice it is a step in the right direction.
The timing of the move was impeccable. I've seen this move described as "quick," but haven't the Bills been aware of their impending organizational re-structure since November 17? The regular season ends in three days, folks. With Nix in place prior to the end of the season, Buffalo can now chase the top guys on their head coaching list, which Nix spoke of at his introductory press conference.
This was not an internal hire. Well, it was, but not in the same way that Bills fans have become accustomed to dreading. Nix has only been in Buffalo for a year. He has little to no long-term affiliation with any of the prominent front office executives held over from the Tom Donahoe era, namely Tom Modrak and John Guy. He's not some corporate stooge that will act as the mouthpiece of a status quo organization; he's a football guy. He's his own man, and he'll create his own culture as he develops his football organization.
Age is just a number. People will unfairly point out that Nix is 70, and that it might have been prudent to re-structure around someone younger. While I believe that argument has some merit, I only believe it's tangible from an energy level standpoint. If Nix is aggressive in cleaning house and establishing his very own football culture, I'm betting that folks will drop the age argument - and possibly even embrace the hire.
This was necessarily not a popularity contest. I don't mind this hire even if it precludes the Bills from bringing in a "big name" head coach. The NFL is not a popularity contest. Hiring Mike Shanahan, for example, might have given us as fans the opportunity to flex our muscles during the off-season, and it certainly would have been a more intriguing discussion to have than this one, but ultimately, the big name would have had the same job as Nix now has. I'm not worried about image. All that matters is results, and I think Nix is qualified for the chance to try to bring about those results.
Nix' philosophies on team-building are sound. During his introductory press conference, Nix made it clear that he is a "build through the draft guy," saying that he views free agency as a method to fill in positions that were not addressed in the draft with quality, mid-tier guys to help you win short-term. Don't expect flashy free agent signings with Nix in charge. I, personally, don't have a problem with that. If he goes out and signs three players who contribute the way Drayton Florence did this year, he'll have done his job very well.
His coaching hire is of critical importance. Yes, that's a very obvious thing to say. Nix spoke almost at length about his belief that previous head coaching experience is helpful when narrowing down a field of candidates, so expect Buffalo's next head coach to have previous head coaching experience. All that matters is this: that Nix and his coach be on the same page in terms of football philosophy, team-building philosophy, and organizational pacing. Nix talked about communication between these two parties being important, and he's right. Nix might only get one shot at hiring a head coach, so he'd better hit this one out of the park.
He'll let his coaches deal with the quarterbacks. Nix spoke of the importance of getting a coaching staff in place and letting them evaluate their current players before making key personnel decisions. Buffalo needs to make a move for a head coach quickly, but they can afford to be somewhat patient at quarterback. Again, I liked hearing this from Nix - and he didn't need to say that Buffalo needs a new QB, but it'd have been nice if he did. Because they do.
Skepticism is warranted, and encouraged. Part of the reason I like this move is because it allows the fan base to be completely objective from the start. Let's face it - if a big name coach like Shanahan had been brought in, expectations would have been meteoric. Right now, with Nix in place, expectations will be more reasonable - and as such, so will arguments for and against the moves he's about to make.
A prediction. Nix' hiring has been a mixed bag of opinions to this point, which is fully expected. It was also surprising - so much so that the Bills' announcement of an impending press conference kind of caught everybody off guard. My prediction is this: if Nix starts the new year by cleaning house (i.e. firing either Modrak or Guy, or ideally both) and putting his stamp on the organization, his popularity will inch upward. But as I said - it's not about popularity. It's about making the right moves. I like the Nix hiring, but that's where it ends for now. What he does over the next few weeks, and obviously into the meat of the off-season, is what really matters.